Isn’t it just the perfect day when you don’t have to get off your bed and binge-watch your favourite TV shows on Netflix all day long, with a packet full of munchies and snacks by your side. Well, for most of us, it is the perfect definition of a peaceful weekend.

But our happy weekend may not be the happiest one for mother earth. As per recent research by some experts, while you stream shows on Netflix, you are contributing to a good amount of CO2 emissions in the environment.

While the video content providers like Netflix, Amazon & others have made it much easier to stream binge-worthy content at just one click, the environment is paying the cost.

Maxime Efoui-Hess, an expert from ‘the Shift Project’ of French think tank said that watching a half-hour show on video content platforms like Netflix & Amazon would lead to harmful emissions of around 1.6 kilograms of carbon dioxide equivalent in the environment. This is equivalent to emissions of a car being driven for 3.9 miles (6.28 kilometres).

The Research and the Study

As per the studies conducted by ‘The Shift Project’, every year the video streaming industry causes emissions equivalent to that of the country of Spain. These figures are from the year 2018 and are most likely to double in the coming 6 years period.

Out of the total online traffic for video streaming, 34% is credible to the biggest video content provider platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu. After this, the second biggest contributor to the cause comes from online porn streaming websites and related platforms.

In a conversation with News18, Gary Cook from Greenpeace organization said, “Digital videos come in very large file sizes and (are) getting bigger with each new generation of higher definition video.”

He is the man behind the monitoring of the IT sector’s energy footprints. He further added, “More data equals more energy needed to maintain a system that is ready to stream this video to your device at a moment’s notice.”

Carbon Emitting Data Centres

While we stream high-quality videos without any interruptions, then somewhere, a big computer is working in a large data centre, processing data at an immense speed which makes it possible for us to binge-watch videos without any problem. These computers and data centres consume a huge chunk of energy to process the data and thus leave behind carbon footprints and another emission.

As per the research conducted by these experts, of all the carbon emissions of the world, around 0.3 per cent is contributed by these data centres. Although there is still an argument about at what rate and by what amount will these figures grow, it is for sure that the future will only have escalated statistics.

Further, while showing the concern towards the topic, Cook quoted, “Our Appetite for Computations Must Diminish.”

Another expert in this regard, Dale Sartor said, “For energy consumption to stay flat for the next five to 10 years, significant improvement in IT equipment and data centre energy performance must be made or our appetite for computations must diminish.” Sartor is an expert from the ‘Center of Expertise for Data Centers’ and has linkages to the US Department of Energy.

The Growing Video Streaming Market

In the past year, Netflix issued a report stating a stagnant growth of 53-per cent increase in international revenue between the year 2017 to 2018. The increase in revenue is specifically in terms of the increased number of subscriptions. Apart from this, the global technology leader Apple and the famous film-maker Disney are also introducing their online-video streaming services soon.

As per a report by the CISCO Network, between the years 2017 to 2022, it is expected that web-based video traffic would significantly increase by around four times and would be accountable for 80 per cent of all internet traffic by 2022.

If we look at it from the other way around, this means that the current internet’s face will completely change to become an online video streaming market.

Better Video Quality Costs More ‘Nature’

Not only the market is expanding in terms of viewers, but also in the terms of viewers requirements. With the increase in the quantity of video content, the quality of video streaming and the demand of the viewers for a better experience is also increasing. As a result, users are equipping with better devices and gadgets to view videos, meanwhile, and installing larger screens

“The changing screen size and related shift to digital video technology have set the stage for higher definition and thus larger file sizes that we are streaming,” Cook further quoted.

As suggested by a report of the Natural Resources Defense Council, screens which have 4K resolution use about 30 per cent more energy as compared to those with the high-definition resolution ones. And to the greater dismay, 8K screens have made their debut in 2018 and will most probably be a trend soon.

What can we do?

As suggested by the experts, there are a few basic things that we can adopt to act smart. While watching/streaming the videos, we can disable autoplay and try that most of the streaming is either on Wi-Fi and if possible, then offline. Further, lowering down the resolution/definition formats can also help in reducing energy consumption.

Also, ‘The Shift Project’ offers a browser extension which helps you monitor your internet usage while displaying the amount of electricity used. Alongside it also tells the amount of CO2 that would have been produced by the electricity consumption, and how far the user would have to drive to match those emissions. Using this extension will help the user understand their role in the scenario in a better way.